A short story. Jay is in his last year of college, he knows what he has to do. But then he meets Charlie and maybe he doesn’t have to do what he has to do instead he could go to America.
The spring semester was getting started and the end of college was near. We were a bunch of kids in our twenties with empty cans in our windows. We were partying every other night; reality had not hit our house yet.
I was with my friends Seamus and Peter standing outside a house where we had seen girls dancing in the window. A brown-haired girl answered. The guys were trying to get themselves into the party. I stood back looking in when I saw her coming down the stairs.
“Hey,” she said coming to stand by her friends.
Her friend told her to go to the kitchen. I followed her and Seamus and Peter followed behind. The brown haired girl did not stop us, since she was eyeing Seamus. He was a tall charmer with looks to match. I on the other hand was considered the nice guy. I was the guy who would make sure my friends were all right. I cared, that was my problem.
She was sitting on the floor in the kitchen corner. I went over to this girl who I knew nothing about and took a chance.
“Hey, I’m Jay,” I said sitting in the chair beside her.
“I’m Charlie,” she said.
I leaned down to her. “You all right?”
“Grand, I just want to sit in a corner.”
“I don’t judge.”
“Good, a lot of people judge. This is our first time meeting, right?”
“I live across from your house – we probably crossed paths a few times.”
“Probably did. Surprised you didn’t catch my eye.” She looked at me. “I’m doing design so I’m always in the Foundation Building. You’re not in there, are you?”
“No. I’m not.”
“Tell me about yourself, Jay,” Charlie said sitting up.
“Nothing to tell.”
She eyed me.
“I’m studying business and economics. It’s the fourth year so I’ll be crazy with the F.Y.P and all, but it’s good craic.”
“I bet that none of the things you are doing are what you want to do. But you know what you are supposed to do, right?
“Why do you think that?” I asked.
“Because everyone at this age feels that way. I mean, I do anyway. We know what we are supposed to do,” she said getting up, “but not what we want to do.” She walked away.
I wasn’t angry but afraid she was right. It was like when I gave up track. I was fast as a cheetah but stopped when I got to college. It was just the four of us, mum, dad and my little brother,Kaenan. We lived on mum’s family farm, a farm I was going to inherit.
I got up and went over to Charlie knowing I’d come across as a fool to her. She knew the game, and knew how to play it to her advantage. And I was willing to be played by her.
4 weeks later
We sat on a campus bench outside one of the college’s main buildings. The sun was out, a rarity in Ireland. Charlie had her face to the sky, eyes closed. She wore a crop top revealing a tattoo that read “She Flies With Her Own Wings” in Latin. I’ve seen this tattoo a few times on our foolish meaningless night together. We were just friends, but I wanted more.
“Are you going to J-term?” she asked me sitting with her legs towards mine, our knees touching.
“I don’t know if I will.”
“You should join me in Chicago.”
It seemed the world was at her feet, and I knew I could never have her – not even for a minute. But she didn’t make me feel like that. She made me realize that there was more to me than what I felt.
“I’ll have to see.” I said
“Well a at least join me tonight at Stables,” she said, smiling.
“I can definitely do that.” She stood up taking my hand as we headed to the library together.
We were in Peter’s room sitting on his bed, listening to music and drinking. The two of us had been friends since our first year. Seamus was my housemate and Peter lived across from us. We stayed friends all three years and now we had one last year to take the piss out of each other, to live together, to drink together. Then, who knew what would happen. Seamus would stay in Ireland, for sure. Peter said he wanted to go to Australia. I’d probably stick around.
“Jay, your girl’s outside,” Peter said.
“What?” I asked as he opened the window. “What are you doing?”
“He wants to know where he’ll be meeting you,” Peter shouted down to her.
“Peter, you tell Jay if he wants me he has to find me,” she called back.
Charlie pulled me away from my friends into the courtyard. We sat on top of the picnic table under a blinking light. She twisted her hair while she talked. I couldn’t stop looking at or listening to her.
“You’re something,” I told her.
“Thanks,” she said pulling herself close to me. “I know I can be little all over the place.”
“No, not at all,” I said taking her hands as I kissed her. I could feel myself falling for her as we headed back to my place.
We woke from a knock on my bedroom window. It was Peter; he needed to get in. “Fuck’s sake, Peter – go around!”
“I don’t have a key!” he shouted. I got up and let him through my window. He winked at me and whispered, “Way to go.”
I crawled into bed and looked at my bedside clock. I had to catch a bus back home in two hours
“You all right?” I asked.
“I always liked design, but I am clueless. Everyone else seems to have a better grasp of what is going on. I know you think I’m perfect, Jay, but I’m so not. And I want to make sure you know that so when you do find out, you won’t be disappointed.”
“I’m not disappointed,” I told her.
“Okay,” she said.
“I’m not disappointed,” I told her again, kissing her while pulling her closer to me, I wasn’t letting go.
I got to the house. My brother was nowhere to be seen. Mom worked at the local pharmacy. She was the only woman I knew who was always sweet. But she had one flaw – she ignored the truth. Dad, on the other hand, was always working on his motorcycles. Nothing else seemed more important to him than those bikes. He hardly ever came in the house. I think mom preferred it that way. Like she preferred having Kaenan in town and me home on the weekends.
“Where’s Kaenan?” I asked mom as I set my bags down by the door.
“He’s at training, I think. Maybe you could pick him up before you get your dad?”
“Is he at the pub?” I asked, even though I already knew he was. “I don’t think Kaenan would be happy to wait around for him?”
“Right, I’ll text him and tell him to just stay wherever he is.”
“You want something to eat?” she said walking away into the kitchen.
My brother was 15. He was always in the village. I didn’t blame him; the house was always too quiet.
Get home you punk, I texted.
I’m with Aisling, he texted back. I let him off.
I went to pick dad up. The smell of whisky was overpowering. He only drank on weekends. Mom said it was just stress. But it wasn’t stress that caused Kaenan to never be home. It wasn’t because of the alcohol that mum was always going to bed before him. And none of it was why I had to come home every weekend and be reminded that if I came back, dad would be better. None of it was the reason for his behaviour.
“How’s college?” he asked as I drove off.
“Fine,” I said. My phone rang. Charlie. I told her to call me when she got back from her night out with her housemates. I didn’t want him to overhear our conversation. I saw his eyes look down.
“Who’s the bird?” he asked.
“Her name’s Charlie.”
“Where’s she from?”
“Galway. Her mom’s American.”
“Oh I see….she’s here to find an Irish man like the rest of them, huh?”
“Listen…” he said, “Girls like that will use you; they’ll show you a life you can’t have. Your priority is to this family. You understand me?”
I gripped the steering wheel, what was his right in telling me, he’s the father, the man of the house. Always working on his motorcycles.
“Okay,” I said.
I lay in my bed looking at my phone. I wanted to call her. I didn’t know what to say, being home reminded me for the fact that I was the fool. However, she was showing me a life that I wanted.
“Hey babe,” I said into the phone.
Three weeks later.
I was sleeping on the couch. My room was being used by my cousin. I was texting Charlie, who was out at a pub with friends. We were sending pictures to each other. She sent one with her looking great in a dark red dress blowing me a kiss. I sent her one of me just lying there only in my boxers. Looks like I’m missing something. I wanted her there with me.
The front door opened and I quickly rolled over like I was sleeping. Dad was coming in from working on his bike. He walked right by me. I could smell beer from him. He went to the kitchen. Mom was in there trying to get everything clean. I could barely hear. Dad’s voice was low. Mom was saying something calmly, in the same way she dealt with unhappy customers. Something wasn’t right.
As I walked into the kitchen I saw him slapping her across the face. Without thinking I ran right into him, pushing him away from her with my right fist in the air.
“Jay,” I heard my mother whisper. It was morning and I couldn’t remember if any of it had actually happened. My knuckles were bruised. I sat up and mom was standing on the other side of the room, her fingers to her lips gesturing from me to come. Her face was badly bruised.
“Come on let’s get you back to school,” she said. I didn’t say anything I just looked at my beaten up knuckles.
She drove me all the way back to school. We didn’t talk until she pulled up behind my house. I had never seen her with such sadness in her eyes.
“Your father is just worked up; that’s all. And I know you are too but let’s get past this, okay? Focus on your finals and then this summer you’ll be home and everything will be good.”
I didn’t know what to say except “I love you.”
I walked to my house. I turned to look at house 44 and up to Charlie’s window. I could see her reflection. I didn’t call over. Instead, I texted her, apologizing for how I couldn’t be there for her anymore. She didn’t reply. I knew she was used to this but if she only knew how my father was a drunk, my mom was helpless, and my brother was hiding from it all, she might have understood. I wish I could have told her I had to help out because, like mom said, then everything would be better at home.
Charlie made me see a life that was different to the one I had – but, like I knew the day I met her, that life was never going to be mine.
This is a story I have had worked on for years and it has changed a lot, it was a flash fiction story in the UCC express Byline last year but this is a longer version of it. Thank you for reading, if you like hit like 🙂 Letting me know ❤